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Daniel Butterick: providing cost advisory with a difference

Daniel Butterick, Director - Cost Advisory

RPS Cost Advisory Lead, Daniel Butterick might not have intended to pursue a career in quantity surveying. But it was a decision that’s seen him advise on multi-million dollar building initiatives from his native Britain to Australia, the South Pacific and beyond. Here, Daniel shares his journey into the world of cost advisory across major projects in multiple sectors, and why his team offers QS services with a difference.

Q How did you become a quantity surveyor – was that something you were always interested in pursuing?

I kind of fell into quantity surveying to be honest! After school I went to America to do some travelling, and to play and coach football. A friend of mine was a quantity surveyor (QS) and was looking for someone, so when I got back to the UK I ended up starting as an Apprentice QS with a small company called Thomas and Adamson.

It's different now, but in those days apprenticeships involved making tea for clients and the team and doing basic arithmetic for the first six months. But you start to learn the business and they put me through my diploma. I then went on to study QS at university while continuing to work full time and learning on the job.

Later, I took a job at a major global firm and started to make my way up the ranks there. In my first “big job” as a Senior Quantity Surveyor I worked on a project that would have been about half a billion in Australian dollars, and within six months I was leading the project. It evolved from there and eventually I moved out to Australia to lead the Education team at that firm.

Meet Daniel

Role at RPS?

Director - Cost Advisory leading a team of specialist quantity surveyors and cost management specialists.

Project experience

Education, health, commercial, renewables, transport, heritage buildings and more!

Q And what’s your current role at RPS?

Now that I’m at RPS I’m leading the Cost Advisory team and helping to grow our offer in that area of project advisory and delivery nationally.

I have a lot of experience in QS for social infrastructure projects – particularly in the education sector – and being able to offer our clients sector-specific QS expertise was a great complement to the work that RPS was already doing in education infrastructure. Both in terms of front-end project advisory and project management.

Education projects were a big focus when I joined and we’re still growing there, but the Cost Advisory team is focusing on a lot of different project types and clients beyond social infrastructure now, too.

Q What kind of projects is your team advising on right now?

The great thing about building the team is that we now have people with lots of different experience, and the scope to work with diverse clients. We’re still doing a lot of work on independent and private schools, but we’re also doing commercial office fitouts, there’s a hospital in Fiji, a resort project, a community initiative for Defence, and most recently working on a renewable energy project…That’s an exciting sector, as we’re getting to look at emerging technologies like hydrogen.

Q How is the RPS approach to cost advisory different? What skills are you looking for when bringing new people into the team?

I think there is a perception that quantity surveying and quantity surveyors are quite transactional. People think it’s just a matter of developing a cost plan and delivering that to the client, but I believe that we can offer a lot more in terms of shaping the commercials of a project and advising on different aspects of a project’s costs in relation to design, procurement, contract, tendering and risk.

Quantity surveying shouldn’t just be a tick box exercise. Here at RPS we can add value by being more of a consultant or advisor, not just providing a standardised approach that only provides a view of costs at a point in time. A contractor can do that.  

Daniel Butterick, RPS Director - Cost Advisory, Perth, Western Australia

Q How are market conditions affecting QS work at the moment?

There are lots of challenges for sure, but I guess this is what I mean when I say we are striving to make quantity surveying less transactional. It’s about demonstrating that the QS can drive design to cost, rather than cost to the design. This can include inputting on the procurement approach, tendering dynamics and market appetite in conjunction with the project manager.

If you have a proactive and engaged QS that’s sitting at your table every week, they’re giving you real time recommendations and advice, rather than just providing a number at set points in time. With market conditions as they are, costs are moving (sometimes significantly!) all the time. It’s important to be assessing regularly and feeding that information back so the risks can be managed.

I think that’s certainly a key to mitigating the current cost challenges.

Q What skills do you have to have to be a great cost advisor?

First things first, you've got to have a strong team behind you, and you’ve got to have a variety of technical strengths in the team. That's imperative. But a big part of our job is building trusting relationships with people and demonstrating that we actually care about clients and their projects. It’s a combination of delivering great service, but also being invested in a client, their project, and the success of both.

I recently had feedback from someone who thanked us for making them feel like they were our “only client and priority”. To me, that’s what it’s all about.

Q What projects are you most excited about at the moment?

It’s been a good learning curve getting into the renewable energy space. For me, I see that as the next 20 years for infrastructure.

I've been doing quite a lot of my own research to familiarise myself with the industry and a hydrogen project we are currently working on has been a great learning experience. I’ve been getting to understand how hydrogen technology works and the different components of a project, from a power station or solar farm, to the electrolyser etc.

Six months ago I didn't have much knowledge of the technology or about any of that, but it’s been really exciting to learn and gain experience in a field that’s new. And to contribute to something as important as energy transition.

Boats moored off the beach at sunset, Rottnest Island, Western Australia